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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation December 9, 2022

Dear readers,

Now that the Georgia Senate runoffs have finished, the election season has officially come to an end. If only GA had ranked choice voting, also sometimes called instant-runoff voting, we would have had results much sooner and saved everyone time, money, and energy by not having an additional election. This great article by Fairvote's Deb Otis and Matthew Oberstaedt sums up how ranked choice voting could be a better alternative to the current system.

Women and minorities gain political representation in Maine, but still face barriers

Jill Duson, elected to Maine's state senate in November, was the first and only Black woman on Portland, ME's school board and city council.

Maine has seen many firsts over the past 20 years. State Senator Jill Duson was the first and only Black woman to join Portland's school board and city council, and is now a part of Maine's senate. In 2002 women consisted of 31% of Maine's state legislature. 20 years later, this number has climbed to 43% as the state inches closer to gender balance. 

Maine elected their first Black selectwoman (Mary Fernandes) in Casco in 2016, and first Black and Muslim women (Angela Okafor and Marwa Hassanien, respectively) to Bangor's city council in 2019. Maine is also home to US Senator Susan Collins, Governor Janet Mills (who was also the first woman Attorney General). 

In the Legislature, the GOP House caucus was led by Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford. This year, two women will lead in Republican leadership positions — Rep. Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester, is the House minority whip and Sen. Lisa Kiem, R-Oxford, is the Senate’s minority whip.

For women, the challenges of running for office have not changed much, said Ashley McCurry, who leads Emerge Maine, a political action group aimed at training Democratic women candidates to run for state office. The stipend for legislators is low and politics can often mean long days with odd hours, which can make arranging childcare difficult. Women who are breadwinners in their households might have to choose between professional and political careers. Those challenges are compounded for women of color who face additional systemic barriers to gaining political ground.

But, McCurry said more women appeared to be motivated to run after Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss and with the repeal of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court this summer. With more women and people of color in office already, that creates a pathway for others who might not have run previously — but also requires rethinking how to support those candidates so they stay in office longer, she said.

Despite remarkable progress, women still face barriers and challenges. Visit RepresentWomen's Barriers and Solutions page to discover how we can not just continue making positive change, but accelerating the pace at which this change is made.

Dina Boluarte became Peru's first female president on Wednesday

Peruvian Vice President Boluarte's swearing-in after Congress approved removal of President Castillo, in Lima

Dina Boularte waves after being sworn-in. Lima, Peru.

As of November 2022, Peru is ranked 28th in the world for gender balance in government - a whopping 46 spots ahead of the U.S., which sits at 74th. Now, Peru celebrates its first woman president with Dina Boularte stepping in after the tumultuous impeachment of former president Pedro Castillo. Dina Boularte will serve as interim president until 2024.

Reuters reports that her predecessor left quite the mess to clean up, and Boularte faces the unenviable challenge of healing a divided Peru and ending the more than a year-long battle between the presidency and Congress.

Boluarte has proven to be someone who "goes with the flow", said analyst Andres Calderon, noting how she quickly distanced herself from her socialist party's polarizing Marxist founder Vladimir Cerron.

In recent weeks, Boluarte also distanced herself from Castillo, resigning from her role as a Cabinet minister after he replaced his prime minister in what some saw as an escalation in his showdown with Congress.

That move suggests she "has a better reading on politics and is more accommodating than her predecessor, which could help her stay in office until 2026," said Calderon.

Wyoming healthcare bill will allow more people to serve

The Wyoming Legislature's Management Council voted to advance a bill that would provide health insurance to legislators and their dependents. Current elected officials shared some of their experiences with healthcare and how providing it could create a far more representative legislature:

The proposed bills come amid increasing workloads for lawmakers, and concern that inadequate compensation bars people from serving in the Legislature.

Some lawmakers consider the health insurance component to be the biggest game-changer in terms of compensation and benefits that would encourage a wider array of people to serve...

"I think we have a very deeply self-selected group of legislators that can afford to be in the Legislature, for one reason or another," Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, said on Thursday, speaking in favor of the bill. 

"If we were to pass this legislation, I think we would open the door to a lot of folks in Wyoming that previously couldn't serve, wouldn't serve, wouldn't even run for office." 

RepresentWomen promotes a plethora of legislative reforms to effectively help women to serve including fair wages for legislators; another legislative rule change WY lawmakers are pushing for.
Brittney Griner is coming home

A few weeks ago, we wrote on how Brittney Griner was being unjustly held at a Russian penal colony for possesion of cannabis. After agreeing to a prisoner swap with Russia, Griner has been freed and is on her way back to the United States. NPR details the situation further:

Standing along side Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, at the White House, Biden said it was a day that "we worked toward for a long time. "

"She's safe. She's on a plane. She's on her way home after months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable conditions," Biden said from the Roosevelt Room.

Biden spoke with Griner from the Oval Office just before making the announcement. He said she was in good spirits, but was experiencing "trauma" and would need time to heal.

"Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along," Biden said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry confirmed Thursday in a press release that Griner was swapped at the Abu Dhabi airport for convicted Russian arms trader Viktor Bout.

Lizzo Gives Empowering People's Champion Speech and Recognizes 17 Incredible Women Activists

At the 2022 People's Choice Awards on Tuesday, Lizzo was given the People's Champion award for her continual effort to uplift others. The Rolling Stones writer Charisma Madarang highlights key moments from her speech:

[Lizzo's] mother Shari Johnson-Jefferson presented the award to her daughter. “When I think of Lizzo the word champion comes to mind,” she said. “She’s a champion of others, she builds you up and she’s always in your corner. I should know because I’m her mother. Melissa has always been herself, 100% that chick and she has shown us all that we don’t have to conform to anyone’s standards in order to be happy, to be creative and to feel worthy. I know that Lizzo has literally saved lives.”  

As the Grammy winner accepted the trophy, she admitted that at first she was “on the fence about accepting” the award “because if I’m the people’s champ, I don’t need a trophy for championing people.”

Lizzo added, “To be an icon is not about how long you’ve had your platform. Being an icon is what you do with that platform. And ever since the beginning of my career, I’ve used my platform to amplify marginalized voices.”

The People’s Champion honoree then welcomed 17 activists to the stage that “deserve the spotlight.” As each activist shared the stage with the singer-songwriter, Lizzo championed each person’s impact and work. As they all gathered togehter, Lizzo called on the crowd to “give them their flowers.”

I had a lovely time speaking at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' Our Common Purpose: Reinventing Democracy event on Wednesday! We had terrific conversations on the impact of ranked choice voting and best practices for getting RCV implemented.


That's all for this week. Have a great weekend!



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